It is now being discussed across the community that the cost to build the new Batemans Bay Regional Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre will be $70 million dollars. Initially the expected cost of the first design adopted by Council was $48 million. Such news of a major blow out is of concern as it represents a difference of $15 million dollars above the budget Council had via two grants of $25 million from the Federal Government and $26 million from the State Government. The revelation of the blow-out is starting to raise questions up and down the shire as residents and ratepayers realise that it will be them who pays the difference. Such questions are: How did Council move from $48 million to $70 million in the design and build of the centre? How is it that the original design has now been paired back with only 350 seats instead of 500 in the theatre, an eight lane 25m pool instead of the promised 10 lanes and a water park now identified for "the future"? At $15 million dollars more the Council have now, under pressure, revealed that they will be selling assets, dipping into funds, selling real estate (such as the Batemans Bay Community Centre and the Batemans Bay Information Centre which, it is understood, will be on the market in February 2021 for $1 million) The Council will also be dipping into the dividends from the sale of Southern Phone shares that were meant to be spread across the region rather than to benefit one township. Also added to the mix will be the still undisclosed proceeds of the sale of the Moruya Racecourse that is understood to be $1.2 million dollars. Should Council be able to fill the $15 million gap to construct the centre they will then have to meet the ongoing costs of operation and maintenance along with depreciation. This is estimated at $3 million per year. Council have been asked to provide evidence that the business case they hold provides councillors, and the community, with transparent figures that would pass the scrutiny of grant authorities, Council's own Audit and Risk Committee and the public. Council has now confirmed that the Audit and Risk Committee have not been given all of the information required to make an informed assessment. The Eurobodalla Mayor, Liz Innes has stated, when questioned about the costings of the Centre has stated "Council has reviewed costs for both the construction and operation of the proposed Batemans Bay Aquatic Arts and Leisure Centre (BBRAALC) throughout the design process."
"This information has been provided by professional consultants who operate in this
environment. For legitimate reasons associated with tenders for both the construction and
operation of the proposed facility, this information has been held in confidence.
"The decisions made by the Council throughout this project have considered, as it should, a
range of community views and independent professional information," says Liz Innes. As the Batemans Bay Aquatic Arts and Leisure Centre is a Regional Centre, to be built with grant money from the Regional Growth Fund and Regional Cultural Fund the onus on keeping it afloat will be shared equally by ratepayers across the Region. Equally, From Sth Durras to Akolele. As a Regional facility it will fall to each and all of us to meet any shortfall when the turnstile figures and leasing revenues fail to cover the operation, maintenance and depreciation. The Mayor might like to assure us it is all OK. Without the figures these are simply empty words. At the moment the Council have revealed NO figures at all. They want us to TRUST them. What is evident is that while the veil of secrecy remains around the "information has been provided by professional consultants who operate in this environment" and that that information is ONLY available to Councillors, the General Manager and Directors we have no option but to trust that they know what they are doing. To date they have not earned my trust - at all.